31 March 2022

Embracing the Vows

How do I say how I feel on my journey? For seven years, I have been listening and discerning during this part of my life. I have had great insights, and experienced moments of frustration and fear. I have a sense of hope, and the certainty that Christ is with me, and inviting me to live and be a herald of the Gospel. As a friar, I am working at ensuring Christ is my centre always, and not myself. I am moving beyond fear, beyond looking at the unknown blankly, beyond my comforts. I am moving deeper into the reality that the joy of the Gospel calls me to.

Friar Nelson posing at Greccio Friary’s staircase.

I know I must embrace this time with hope as this is a key sign of joy. I must embrace this time with faith as this is central to the Gospel. I must embrace this time with love as love is the face of Christ I meet in each of my brother friars, and in creation and every place the friars live.

As I prepare for my Solemn Profession, I am glad to have this time to go back to the moment when I was first called to this journey. In reflecting on the call of Moses, Abraham, Mother Mary, John the Baptist and St Francis, I realised that we are called in different and unique ways.

I will promise the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and now I know that these formidable– sounding promises are meant to be liberating and not restrictive, even though they mean living within certain boundaries.

Bread freshly baked by Friar Nelson.

For me, poverty is best expressed in trying to live modestly, in not getting attached to or obsessed with material possessions, and in attempting to live a life of generous service to others, putting their needs before mine. I see celibate chastity as sharing generously with the people with whom I live and work, and promoting the idea that the deepest kind of intimacy involves reverencing and respecting others as whole persons, not just an exchange of bodily fluids.

As for obedience, there was a time when I defined obedience in a very narrow way, thinking that becoming a friar meant giving up my own will, and regarding the directives of the community’s leaders as the will of God. I have come to understand that the Franciscan vow of obedience is about giving public witness to the importance of listening and responding to God’s call. In other words, the vow of obedience expresses our Christian conviction that it’s not about me. Being a follower of Jesus means dying to ourselves and living for God.

Friar Nelson Evarinus OFM

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